Winless through two games isn’t what the Indianapolis Colts were expecting when they traded for Matt Ryan this offseason. Nevertheless, this is the reality, as they sit at 0-1-1 and are looking for solutions after back-to-back disappointing outcomes.
It’d be one thing if the Colts had a tough stretch to open the season like the Kansas City Chiefs, who played the Arizona Cardinals on the road before hosting the talented Los Angeles Chargers.
Instead, the Colts tied with the Davis Mills-led Houston Texans and were shut out by the Jacksonville Jaguars, two clubs that have recently occupied the NFL’s metaphorical cellar.
There’s definitely reason to panic in Indianapolis, and head coach Frank Reich is at the forefront of it all. The Colts underachieved last season ,and Reich’s job could be on the line.
Matt Ryan has not lived up to expectations through two games
Matt Ryan was brought to Indianapolis to provide some reliability and leadership to a team that’s ready to win now. Through two games, though, he’s been anything but reliable.
The Colts’ offense looked sluggish against the Jaguars, and most of the blame will fall on the quarterback. He completed just over 50% of his passes, throwing for 195 yards and three interceptions.
Ryan was without his top wideout Michael Pittman and rookie Alec Pierce, but he’s worked with a lot less various times with the Atlanta Falcons. The Colts still had the best running back in the game, along with two speedy receivers in Parris Campbell and Asthun Dulin but weren’t able to put up any points.
Starting slow has been a big issue for the offense, and the unit finds itself playing catch-up. This isn’t Indianapolis’ strength, as it forces them to abandon the run game and go away from using their best weapon. Jonathan Taylor is averaging 5.4 yards per carry so far this season, but he ran the ball just nine times against Jacksonville because of the early deficit.
Against the Texans, they trailed 17-3 at halftime. Then, Ryan started the Jaguars game with an interception followed by three consecutive three-and-outs that led to the Colts falling behind.
Through two games, he’s totaled just one touchdown and five turnovers – four picks, one fumble lost – while throwing the worst passer rating (63.9) among healthy quarterbacks. His offensive line hasn’t helped matters either, allowing seven sacks.
Ryan’s play has significantly dropped since the end of last season. It could be attributed to being in a new scheme and on a new team for the first time in his NFL career. But even the former MVP would tell you that his level needs to improve for the Colts to start winning games.
Indianapolis’ defensive stars haven’t been playing up to their level
The Colts’ defense ranks 11th and 17th, respectively, in yards and points allowed this season. Neither is bad, but those numbers definitely are not up to expectations, given the unit’s talent.
Indianapolis has five Pro Bowlers on its defensive unit: DeForest Buckner, Yannick Ngakoue, Shaquille Leonard, Kenny Moore II, and Stephon Gilmore.
Leonard, a four-time All-Pro linebacker and one of the most dominant defensive players in the game, has missed the first two games with a back injury. His presence has been gravely missed, but Leonard is expected to make his season debut against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
That doesn’t excuse the rest for being absent on defense. Buckner and Ngakoue have combined for zero sacks, Moore gave up a touchdown against Jacksonville, and Gilmore had an interception fall right through his hands. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year led the league in interceptions (six) and pass deflections (20) just three seasons ago but has failed to maintain that success since.
The Colts have often relied on takeaways to provide the offense with good field position. They’ve finished top five in forced turnovers during each of the past two seasons, but that has yet to be the case in 2022, as they have just one to their name through two games.
The lone bright spot on defense is that Kwity Paye’s progression remains on track. He’s generated 10 tackles, two sacks, and three tackles for loss in the first two weeks. Outside of him, though, the defense has looked uninspired without Leonard.
Ultimately, things rest with Frank Reich at the top of the food chain
The Colts undoubtedly have the most talented roster in the AFC South, yet their recent play would suggest that they have the worst.
Jonathan Taylor is one of the best and most productive running backs in the league, but when he doesn’t perform, the Colts don’t either. Taylor was held to 63 yards from scrimmage against the Jaguars, his worst outing since Week 2 of last season.
The Colts were 0-7 in 2021 when Taylor rushed for under 100 yards. The offense has to find ways to win when the All-Pro running back doesn’t have his A game.
Reich was originally the one that suggested the Colts pursue Carson Wentz. He put together one of his best statistical seasons in 2021 but fell one game short of leading Indianapolis to its second consecutive playoff appearance. One year later, the entire Colts organization was ready to move on from the now-Washington Commanders quarterback in favor of Matt Ryan.
Indianapolis isn’t afraid to call upon the older quarterbacks around the league. They signed Philip Rivers back in 2020 for one final season, during which he led the Colts to a Wild Card game. This time around, however, the Colts are experiencing a much different outcome, as the 37-year-old Ryan is fading fast and falling way short of expectations.
Ryan is Reich’s fifth starting quarterback during his tenure in as many years. After each of the past four signal callers failed to even reach the Divisional Round, it feels inevitable that he is next on the chopping block. Eventually, the Colts’ front office will have to look themselves in the mirror and determine if it’s been the quarterback’s fault all this time or the man in charge of the operation.
Anything less than a divisional crown will be a disappointment. It’s now or never for Reich to right the ship, or else it could be his last season in Indianapolis.
Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference